ISLAMABAD - President Mamnoon Hussain Thursday called for further expansion of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) to improve the living standard of poor, vulnerable and deprived segments of the society.

President Mamnoon Hussain, who is also chief patron of BISP, stated this during the launching ceremony of “First Ever Evaluation Report of BISP’s Impact” organized at BISP Secretariat. The event was attended by Cabinet members, parliamentarians, diplomats, business community, government officials, academia, civil society members and media. In his opening remarks, President said that welfare of the citizens is the responsibility of the state. The constitution of Pakistan under article 38 ensures the promotion of social and economic well being of all the citizens of Pakistan and, in this regard, BISP is playing a key role for the welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable in the country.

Evaluation Report of BISP’s Impact focuses on the objective of evaluating whether BISP has achieved its goal of providing direct support to the poorest families by supplementing their incomes and also its impacts on key intended areas including consumption smoothening and poverty alleviation. The impact evaluation exercise is globally taken as a standard to measure the performance and to facilitate evidence based policy making. Evaluation Report of BISP’s Impact will guide policy-makers, stakeholders, international communities and donors, on the scope, efficiency and effectiveness of BISP as an anti-poverty instrument. In this regard, BISP has initiated a series of impact evaluation studies through Oxford Policy Management (OPM), which is a globally renowned research organization.

The President commended the efforts of BISP management and said that the team of BISP, under the leadership of Minister of State and Chairperson BISP, MNA Marvi Memon, is working diligently for ensuring the transparency and efficiency in the operations of BISP. Making the impact evaluation report public is a giant leap in this direction. He said that there is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than knowing the fact that our meager efforts are bringing change in the lives of millions of families around Pakistan.

The President said that with the right approach, increased budget and implementation of focused policies by PML-N government, BISP has truly become a pride of Pakistan as it is the largest social safety net initiative in South Asia and one of the largest around the world. Government has made significant investment in BISP Waseela-e-Taleem Program which is being run in 32 districts of the country and more than 700 thousand children have already been admitted to schools under this initiative.

In the beginning of the event, Secretary BISP, Muhammad Saleem Ahmed Ranjha said that evaluation of any programme is crucial for its transparency and accountability. BISP includes a comprehensive evaluation component that not only measures the well-being of beneficiaries but also informs the management whether the programme is achieving its intended goals or not. Having monitoring evaluation from independent third parties, BISP has effectively started the process of self accountability, transparency, learning and openness.

In her welcome remarks, Minister of State and Chairperson BISP Marvi Memon said that First Impact Assessment only surveys impact between April – June 2013, a period of the last government when payments were not being made regularly, but it has some important findings for future years. She said that payments to the beneficiaries have been regular since 2014 so the future impacts would be much better. The increment in the monthly stipend from Rs 1000 to Rs. 1500 by the present government will also prove to be more beneficial. She also mentioned the factor of communication strategy, recently developed by BISP management, and the use of technology solutions and BISP Beneficiary Committees (BBCs) will have significant impacts in future.

While highlighting the key findings of the report, Chairperson BISP said that 64% beneficiaries have control over BISP’s stipend which means empowerment of women and more expenditure on children’s nutrition needs. She also talked about commencement of women empowerment roundtables by BISP regarding reduction in violence, education of women on civil rights, child protection system and controlling fertility for demographic dividends. She highlighted an important finding of the evaluation report which states that BISP has contributed in the poverty reduction by 22 percentage points, for a subset of BISP beneficiaries, through its financial assistance.

Chairperson BISP apprised of other findings related to health of beneficiaries, grievance redressal system, impact on child labour, travelling by beneficiaries for receiving payments and children education. As the report focuses on the period from April to June 2013, Chairperson BISP gave an overview of the recent initiatives taken by BISP which will help to address the issues mentioned in this report like resurvey, QPCMS/Tablets as solution for grievance redressal system, biometric payment mechanism, graduation programs with organizations like Akhuwat and consideration for more conditional cash transfer programs. She stated that the battle against poverty can be won by giving dignity, empowerment and meaning of life to the beneficiaries.